In a surprise phone call to the home of an ABC News producer in Pakistan, the top Taliban military commander, Mulla Dadullah Akhund, said Osama bin Laden is alive and that there is no truth to the rumors of his death from typhoid.
"Sheikh Osama is all right. He is safe," Dadullah told ABC News' Rahimullah Yusufzai. Dadullah would not disclose the location from where he was calling.
In the past, Dadullah has issued statements to the effect that bin Laden and Taliban leader Mulla Mohammad Omar are alive and leading the resistance against U.S.-led foreign forces in Afghanistan.
THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS
When pressed for evidence to show that bin Laden is alive, Dadullah hinted that there is a possibility of a tape being sent to media organizations to prove that the al Qaeda head isn't dead. Dadullah, however, declined to say as to when this tape would be made available.
The last time bin Laden released an audiotape was in late July. In it, he eulogized the sacrifices of al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and described him as a martyr.
That audiotape was the fifth issued by bin Laden in 2006. His last videotape was released in October 2004 a few days before the presidential elections in the U.S.
The renewed interest in bin Laden's fate was triggered by the report in a French regional newspaper that the al Qaeda leader died after suffering from a serious bout of typhoid in Pakistan on Aug. 23. That report grew out of a rumor passed at an embassy party in Islamabad by a Saudi diplomat attache, according to intelligence sources in France and Pakistan.
It isn't clear whether Taliban commanders, such as Dadullah, have access to bin Laden or to his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other important al Qaeda figures. There have been reports that al Qaeda and Taliban members have forged closer ties with each other since the collapse of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in December 2001. However, there is no evidence that bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mulla Omar could be hiding together in one place.